John Michael's Corner Welcome to the intersection of orthotics and prosthetics in cyberspace! This month includes highlights from the AOPA Assembly in Washington, DC and the posting of additional chapters of the classic UCLA Upper Limb Prosthetic text to the CPO Services Digital Reference Library, for reference or for downloading. It concludes with a short article featuring Jennifer Smith CP's once-in-a-lifetime trip across Europe on a Harley.

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AOPA Assembly in Washington, DC

This year's AOPA meeting held few surprises. Most of the scientific sessions were repeats of the best from earlier Academy meetings, and many of the business sessions were re-runs too. And, there was no major innovation or "buzz" from the exhibit hall that I saw either, although there were several clever ideas from some of the "mom-n-pop" suppliers that will be highlighted in the report.

No one seemed to be able to put a finger on any specific reason why this particular meeting was uneventful. My worry is that this may one of the long-term negative effects from the past decade of managed care and cost containment pressures. Declining reimbursements have made it more difficult for many clinicians to attend major meetings, particularly in high cost areas such as DC. Today's cost-containment attitude discourages companies from investing in innovative research, for fear they will never recover the development costs. This leads to a proliferation of "me too" knock-offs of someone else's creativity, which are of limited interest to clinicians, and the downward spiral then accelerates. The most positive spin I heard was from a friend and colleague with a small practice in New England, who said, "I really enjoyed this meeting because I was able to talk with each and every supplier in the exhibit hall, and they had plenty of time for me!"

New Doodads from the Exhibit Hall

As noted earlier, I saw no major innovations unveiled at this year's AOPA meeting. Most suppliers had some new wrinkles or incremental advances on display, but there was nothing that really captivated the attendees.

I was quite interested to see the total number of exhibitors increase, however, and to note the participation of a number of small suppliers who are new to our meetings. For example, there were several pedorthic suppliers showing a multitude of shoe and foot orthosis equipment, materials, and designs. I'm not certain if this represents an effort from suppliers in related industries to increase their incremental sales by adding a percentage from O&P, or if it represents a fundamental shift in the scope of our field, or both. But, most of the clever ideas that I spotted came from the "micro-suppliers".

CPO Services Digital Reference Library

This month, chapters four, five and nine have been posted of the UCLA Upper Limb Prosthetic text. Over the next few months, we will be posting the remainder of the manual. By the end of the year, the entire volume will be available online, for reference or for downloading. We hope to make additional volumes of classic P&O information available in the Library in the future, whenever copyright clearances are available or when the works become part of the public domain.

Jennifer Smith CP's Incredible Adventure